SASOD launches campaign to increase tolerance, respect for LGBTQ+ people, and repeal same sex laws
Over the past nine years, there has been a 15 per cent increase in acceptance and a 13 per cent reduction in hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people.
To further increase the acceptance level and reduce the stigma and prejudice against the minority group in Guyana, the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Wednesday launched the “Guyana Together” campaign.
The campaign focuses on sharing the stories of LGBTQI Guyanese who have found acceptance and support from family, coworkers, neighbours, friends and religious leaders.
The first phase of the campaign will run for two years. During this period, emphasis will not only be placed on educating the population but also engaging lawmakers to repeal laws criminalizing intimacy between men.
Delivering remarks at the launch held at the Marriott Hotel, Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson said the campaign is seen as an “aggressive” start to law reform for LGBTQI persons.
According to Simpson, the first national poll on issues related to LGBTQI people in 2013 found that there was an increase in acceptance from 19 percent to 34 percent while hatred reduced from 25 per cent to 12 per cent.
“We found for the first time, 54 per cent – more than half of the population -supports decriminalizing intimacy between consenting adult men in private. In other words, they want to see those laws come off the books and a significant majority of the population as well thinks that LGBTQI issues should be a priority for the government,” Simpson said.
He added, “in order to do that we wanted to, at the same time, increase social acceptance and once the population is sufficiently swayed, we know we would also sway the legislators and the policy makers.”
According to Simpson, it is envisioned that phase two of the campaign will focus on amendments to Guyana’s Prevention of Discrimination Act so that members of the community could at least have some legal recourse if discriminated against.
The 1997 Act currently prohibits discrimination in a place of employment based on: race, sex, religion, colour, ethnicity, indigenous population, nationality, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, pregnancy, marital status, or age.
But SASOD and other local organisations asked for it to include ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ as grounds for discrimination. If this is done, any employer found guilty of discrimination could be sanctioned.
“It took a while to find the really good stories of acceptance, of resilience, and not just find those stories but find those stories with people who are willing to go public….We think that this will spark a national conversation that will take us to the next level in terms of increasing acceptance and respect for lesbian, gay and transgender people in Guyana,” Simpson contended.
Meanwhile, in brief remarks, social worker and Director of the Help and Shelter, Pamela Nauth said for “too long” LGTTQI persons have been forced to live in “the shadows” as a result of outdated laws which have made it difficult for them to live “openly” as their authentic selves.
“I have worked with many marginalized and vulnerable groups who have suffered the impact of unjust laws and it was demonstrated to me that for change to occur, allies cannot be silent.
“We just cannot. Our voices need to be heard loud and clear. We must speak and speak we must stand and support our neighbours who are being faced with unfair treatment,” Nauth said.
The “Guyana Together” campaign was launched in collaboration with the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Black Entrepreneurs Association (BEA) and other supporting partners.
To date, it has been endorsed by more than 60 local organisations.